Identifier

etd-11052006-094055

Degree

Master of Mass Communication (MMC)

Department

Mass Communication

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

This study sought to fill in a gap in civic journalism research by considering its implications for community newspapers, those small, locally oriented publications that serve rural and suburban communities throughout the country. In particular, this study posed the argument that such newspapers may have advantages in pursuing civic journalism, and that these approaches may especially benefit newspapers in high-growth communities. This study relied heavily on the language of theorists who describe journalism as a public conversation, the quality of which - its usefulness for readers as citizens and members of a community - the press can either help or hinder. This study also relied on the assumption that civic journalism suggests a social imperative as well as a civic one: How well newspapers help readers, particularly newcomers, integrate into the community socially may affect how well these residents become invested, participatory citizens. Accordingly, this study sought to test whether new and long-time readers seek different kinds of information from the newspaper and whether a leaning toward civic or social interests corresponds to length of residence. A telephone survey of subscribers of The Williamson County Sun, a semi-weekly newspaper in Georgetown, Texas, was undertaken to evaluate readers' use and perceptions of the paper as a vehicle for familiarizing newcomers with the community, facilitating community involvement and helping residents navigate changes related to growth. Results did not demonstrate a relationship between length of residence and interest in social-oriented news, although a potential relationship was suggested between interest in certain types of news and reasons for moving to Williamson County. The strongest findings of the study related to readers' perceptions of their relationship with the community newspaper compared to the nearby metro daily, and their evaluations of the newspaper's usefulness in facilitating a public conversation through strong local news coverage.

Date

2006

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dave Kurpius

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